In my previous post, I tried to explain the anxiety and restlessness I sometimes feel working at an evangelical Christian college. It’s frustrating to me that people around here judge me based on my theological beliefs. What they are usually saying is that they think I’m not really a Christian, and therefore some kind of threat to the cohesion of this Christian community.
Next month a friend of mine is coming to speak on my campus who has been drawing controversy lately by publicly espousing theological beliefs that identify him as outside the boundaries of what many of the colleges he speaks at find acceptable for Christians.
I was telling this to a colleague at lunch this week, and he responded by saying that the word “orthodoxy” means “right belief,” and Christians have been protecting the faith by making judgments about one another’s theological beliefs for two thousand years. He said “If your friend finds it too hard to believe the right things, maybe he’s in the wrong religion. Being a Christian is easier than that.”
Obviously, I took this personally, because I’m assuming my colleague would say the same thing about me if he knew that I hold a theology that probably fails parts of his litmus test for believing the right things.
I don’t care how easy people say it should be for me to follow Christ; in my personal experience I find it very hard! I struggle with weak faith, confusion about the Trinity, laziness and bad character, the existence of evil, injustice and suffering. I work out my theological conclusions in response to these struggles, so that I can remain faithful. If I believed some of what people tell me I should believe about (theology buzzword alert:) soteriology, eschatology, divine ontology, etc., I wouldn’t be able to stay a Christian at all!
I’ve found tremendous hope and help in the Mennonite church. Fellow Mennos care about and frequently ask me about my mission. “Following Christ and building the Kingdom of God!” is my usual answer. They ask me what I need in order to do that. There are many things I need: discipline, humility, meditation, good advice, submission to God’s will, community support, and more. And also I believe theological ideas that people judge me for.
Parts of my theology is awkward, and unpopular, maybe even incorrect or incomplete. But what those beliefs do is help me be a better, more faithful Christian.
This is “what theology is for” in my life. It’s to help me understand and follow and serve and submit to the will of Jesus. Not to draw boundary markers for club membership. I care very little for the theological opinions in the heads of most of the people I work with at my college. I simply care if they are healthy and at peace following Christ and building the Kingdom.
I wish I had more of a sense that people around here could look at me that way if they knew all that I believe.
I take comfort in the confidence that the Mennonites will let me stay in their group if ever the college I work for tells me to leave. I’m still working out what this means in the long term.